On the day I arrive at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to meet James Allison and his longtime collaborator Padmanee Sharma, they are nowhere to be found. Sharma, a Guyanese immigrant and practicing cancer doctor, oversees the collection of tumor samples from 100 of Anderson’s 165 cancer trials that involve immunotherapy. A Time Line of Cancer Treatment Over 150 years, doctors learned to treat cancer with surgery, x-rays, chemotherapy, and vaccines.
One or both have since been approved to treat some types of lung cancer, kidney cancer, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, creating the most important new class of cancer drugs in a century.
1981-2006 1981: A vaccine against hepatitis B, which causes liver cancer, becomes the first cancer vaccine to reach market in the U.S. 1995: James Allison rids mice of tumors using a new type of treatment that unleashes the immune system: a checkpoint inhibitor.
On the basis of these results and further research, Sharma and Allison convinced Bristol-Myers to combine the drugs in a clinical trial for advanced prostate cancer.
Once a year Allison packs a sold-out venue at the American Society for Cancer Research.